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Employee Benefits: Should I Change Our Sick Leave Policy?

The COVID-19 outbreak has made every company rethink its sick-leave policies. Whether or not your business had generous allowances before the pandemic, the coronavirus has put the matter into a new perspective. At the same time, it has forced businesses to evaluate their long-term stance on employee benefits.

According to government statistics, about three out of every four workers (76%) have some form of paid sick days. In terms of the cost to employers, the same set of figures show that benefits average $0.42 per employee hour worked.

While providing paid sick time represents an added cost, the policy comes with benefits as well. Think about it as an investment. Studies show that a competitive sick-leave structure can cut turnover by up to 50%. Meanwhile, maintaining these benefits helps keep your employees productive. One study showed that working while sick costs U.S. employers $150 to $250 billion a year.

So what should you do? In the wake of the pandemic, how can you structure a sick-leave policy that protects your workers and keeps you competitive in the job market? Here are some concepts to keep in mind as you consider whether to change your sick-leave policy:


Don’t Fight Sick Days

Companies often have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy towards employees coming to work when they are under the weather. Firms don’t want to lose productive time to illness, and workers don’t want to burn sick leave when they can stagger through a workday.

As we’ve covered, having a competitive sick policy helps reduce turnover and protects productivity. There are wider implications as well, as underlined by the coronavirus outbreak. Coming to work with a potentially contagious disease puts everyone at risk.

As such, don’t look the other way when workers come to work with obvious symptoms. Rather, encourage your employees to stay home when necessary. You might lose a little in the short run, but you’ll protect your long-term productivity.


Work From Home

There is a compromise position related to sick days. Again, the COVID outbreak has brought this option to the forefront. When workers have health problems, they can still contribute by working remotely.

You’ve probably already created a robust remote-working infrastructure following the spread of COVID-19. Keep this going even after the pandemic passes. Used on a regular basis, it will let you keep productivity up while still protecting your workers from spreading illness.


Know the Law

As you start considering your sick policy, you need to start the basics. Review the law in your area and consider the specifics as they relate to your particular industry. Make sure your policy conforms with all relevant regulations.


Define a Clear Policy…And Communicate Details to Your Employees

Transparency is the key to any corporate policy. Your sick-leave procedures should be detailed and specific. Also, the information should be published in a place where your team members can easily reference the particulars. As such, describe the specifics of your policy in a handbook or on your employee website.


Create Contingency Plans

Sick time creates holes in your output strategy. Almost by definition, days off sparked by illness come suddenly and as a surprise. The secret to having a seamless sick-time policy comes from careful planning.

Know how you will handle a sudden illness by any of your employees. Have backups trained and ready to go on a moment’s notice. It takes careful consideration to have these contingencies in place, while not creating costly redundancies. That’s why you should hash out the details well ahead of time and have them ready when the time comes.


Building and maintaining a high-functioning staff requires competitive sick-leave policies. You also need access to the best talent. By teaming with a strong recruiting partner, like TriStarr, you can take your team-building program to the next level.

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